MASSIVE QUESTIONS with SURGEON / Part One

"Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha! We'll atta call yow Blog Mon, woe we, ya saft cunt?!"

If you try and do anything out of the ordinary or cultured in Walsall, you'll get shot down in a second. I remember walking into the Hogshead on a Saturday afternoon in 2002, with a P.G. Wodehouse book. Richie Priest pointed at the pocket I was carrying it in, laughed and then screamed, "Where the fuckin' hell do you think yow am, the library?!" The whole pub laughed with him, at me. I vowed there and then to move to London and set up a popular dance music blog within a decade.

Now look at me, sitting down in the foyer of the Sanctum Soho Hotel on Warwick Street with Surgeon for a casual talk about his entire life, and I've just seen Shadow from Gladiators walk past! I love this hotel. I love it because it offers comfort, style and sophistication in the heart of London's vibrant Soho.
This is Part One of the final ever MASSIVE QUESTIONS. There are only so many times you can ask somebody in the dance music industry the same questions over and over and over again before it gets properly fucking boring. Or maybe it becomes hypnotic, like minimal techno, I don't know. I'm taking a MASSIVE risk in letting go of MASSIVE QUESTIONS because it's the only section of the Weekly Review of Dance Music that ever gets featured on the Resident Advisor Feed, but I have to think of the integrity of the blog. If WRDM relies solely on reaching people through the popularity of the artists it pushes in interviews like this, then it doesn't say much about the excellent quality of my writing, which is consistently excellent and ALWAYS getting better.

Saying that, I'm honoured that Surgeon agreed to be the subject of the final ever MASSIVE QUESTIONS because we're very similar characters. Like me, he's known for liking dance music and coming from the Midlands.

He's also known for producing music for the PlayStation racing game, Midnight Club: Street Racing.

After texting our respective best friends to tell them that we'd just spotted Shadow from Gladiators, the interview began:
Many thanks to XLR8R for the pics / xlr8r.com/in-the-studio-surgeon
Q. For anyone unfamiliar with the name Surgeon, could you tell them who you are, what you do and why you do it?
A. Hello. I am Tony, sometimes known as Surgeon. I produce and play music to make people lose their minds, and I do that because I’m a kind soul.

Q. Has reaching the stage in your career where you’re able to pick and choose what you want to do, artistically, something you’re comfortable with or do you miss the days when everything was a struggle and you were younger and not yet well known? Or, was it even a struggle? Were you so good at DJing and producing that everything fell onto your lap, and you’ve never really had a problem doing what you do? Know what I mean?
A. I’ve worked really hard to be in a position where I can express myself in a pure and honest way. I still find many ways to push myself and stretch myself. My focus always has been and always will be on the music and I’ve always believed in allowing opportunities to come to me, rather than flogging my arse like a cheap whore.


Q. How did you come up with the moniker, Surgeon? Did you ever toy with the idea of prefixing it with DJ, like a proper DJ (DJ Surgeon) or suffixing DJ with something more exciting, like ‘Dance Docta’ (DJ Dance Docta) or ‘Beat Injury Specialist’ (DJ Beat Injury Specialist)?
A. Those other suggestions are great, I wish I’d thought of those instead of just ‘Surgeon’. I played in a space / prog rock band called Blim in the early '90s and I was really shy about being on stage, so I dressed up as a surgeon as a way to assume an alter ego when I performed with them. One day, someone came to one of our rehearsals and asked, “where’s the Surgeon?”, so that’s how I got my name.

Everyone had stupid DJ names back then, so I thought I would have one too.

Q. How do you get through the majority of interviews you agree to without rolling your eyes and tutting every time the interviewer uses the words, ‘hypnotise’, ‘Lady Gaga’, ‘continuum’, ‘Birmingham’, ‘Mick Harris’, and ‘Coil’?
A. I cope as almost everyone does by being a smart arse. To be honest, I’m usually the one who mentions ‘hypnotise’ and ‘Coil’. Dunno about ‘continuum’, that’s a new one.

I like to mention Mick, he’s a vital part of the beginning of Downwards, and Karl (Regis) and I working together.



Q. Sixteen bar rolling snare fill or an eight bar rising hoover noise that starts off low and ends up really high just before the beat and cymbal crash comes in?
A. Hoover every time.

Q. In the late summer of 1997, I caught the 51 bus into Birmingham City Centre with Draper and Micky John to go clubbing for the very first time. I was wearing my green and white houndstooth Farah trousers, an electric blue Soviet shirt, a pair of my dad's black work shoes, polished, and I stunk of Eternity by Calvin Klein. The bouncer on the door let my mates in but refused me entry on the grounds that I was "too young" and "looked shit". If we'd have gone to House of God instead of Miss Moneypenny's, would I have been let in?
A. Yes, you would have been let in to House Of God. We’ve never had a dress code; the music we play has always been the best way to weed out the people we don’t want there.
Q. I'm sure that I saw a flyer with the names of everyone who has ever played at House of a God on their Facebook page recently, and I'm also sure that Tony De Vit's name was on it. Do you remember having TdV play at House of God, and if so, what are your memories of the night, and the man?
A. Yes, I remember Tony De Vit playing and I remember it annoyed some of the techno purists that he played there. He played a really good Hi-NRG set for us at the Dance Factory, though I don’t remember meeting him that night.

Q. House of God turns 22 this month, and you're playing live with Blawan as Trade. What are your roles within a live set up? Do you operate separate machines and instruments and play a pre-organised set or is it all improvised?
A. It’s all totally improvised, seat of the pants stuff. We don’t have anything prepared, we actually can’t with the kind of machines we use: raw, modular synthesisers. We just both make a racket and if we like what we hear, we go with it. It’s a lot of fun to do it that way.



Q. When you’re at House of God, are you there from start to finish, checking out and inspecting the other rooms or do you just turn up for your set and then go home when you’re done – like it’s any other gig?
A. It’s a chance to catch up with so many old friends, I always hang about on a HOG night.

Q. Have you ever got the arms of your glasses tangled up with the cable of your headphones whilst in the middle of a DJ set? If so, how embarrassing was it and how did quickly did you recover?
A. It must have been a long time ago. I don’t remember, but I’m sure it’s happened. Since then I’ve studied dance and movement with the same bloke who taught Kate Bush. That’s why I can leap so high.

 Q. What is Terry Donovan really like?
A. He is a lovely, lovely, lovely, lovely, lovely, lovely, man. He’s wise too.

Q. What’s the best thing you’ve ever done?
A. I went on holiday to Miami in the mid '80s and I had a large foam ball that became totally waterlogged in the swimming pool. I called it the ‘meat ball’. That was pretty good.
Q. How do you disassociate yourself from a mind-state born from industrialised sci-fi soundscapes, the work of Carl Jung and an unconscious expressive emotion whilst, at the same time, weigh up your responsibilities as a DJ and, in a certain respect, the sensory guardian for whoever is…sorry. Stone cold sober or absolutely fucking terminated?
A. Stone cold sober.

Q. Could I have AAA VIP guest list + 1 for House of God this month, please?
A. Chris (The Evil Chris), who is the mastermind behind House Of God, rules it with an iron fist and not even an iron fist in a velvet glove. At the last event he threw a guy out of the DJ booth for being dressed as a wizard. He said, “I saw a wizard, so I told him to fuck off.”

I’m far too scared to ask him for AAA VIP or anything like that.



I knew I shouldn't have put the "AAA VIP" bit in. Oh well, it's only about twelve quid on the door. What a lovely man though! We're not finished either...

Part Two of MASSIVE QUESTIONS with SURGEON follows next Tuesday, where, amongst other questions, Surgeon is quizzed on who he thinks murdered Lucy Beale.

In the mean time, make sure you buy all of Surgeon's recent records (including the recent re-issues of some of his earliest releases) from my very dear friends at Phonica: phonicarecords/surgeon

You can also boost Surgeon's self-esteem by Following him on Twitter: @Tony_Surgeon

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